ENTICING tourists is not a problem for Bali. All these years it has consistently been a most sought after destination in Asia since the 80s, way before the movie Eat, Pray, Love. An enchanting island and province of Indonesia with the biggest population of Balinese Hindu faith, Bali has been named by TripAdvisor in March 2017 as Traveller's Choice Award’s world's top destination. So what’s with the euphoria around only one of more than 17,000 islands in Indonesia? Is Bali worth the hype, or does it have its highs and lows as talked about?
This month, Cebu Pacific brought the Visayas Mindanao media delegates to a fam tour of four days to key destinations in the island. It was quite a short, sweet stay where Bali was introduced to us in a hurried pace that belies a supposedly laidback lifestyle. I am not one to complain though, because I was in a company of fun colleagues, hosts and tour guides in long, private bus rides filled with laughter and camaraderie (and mad dashes to public toilets).
So here’s Bali in a nutshell from my short experience (although I have been to another part of Indonesia several times, this island is highly unique from many perspectives, and was often mistakenly separated from Indonesia). In this trip we were fortunate to stay in three resorts, each one amazingly beautiful, from a hidden sanctuary nestled within a jungle, and one built into the heart of a shopping hub. Mason Elephant & Park Lodge is a world class eco lodge and rescue reserve which deserves another story -- imagine waking up in my room and drinking coffee from my porch overlooking a herd of elephants! Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa is a sprawling property with an exclusive shopping and dining complex, luxury accommodations overlooking tropical gardens, quaint traditional structures, and 150 meters of beach front that welcomes the sunrise. Then there’s The Anvaya Beach Resort Bali – an entirely modern structure meshed with Balinese architecture overlooking a wide beach shore where guests either go for a swim, or step out into a vibrant hub of shopping centers, tattoo shops (that’s another story too!), dining havens and eclectic shops. Each resort fulfills an invigorating spa experience to rejuvenate tired bodies, preparing you for other adventures from backriding on an elephant to a wild drive on a Jungle Buggy (ATV Track) with Mason Adventures Bali.
With tourism as its main economy, Bali is renowned for its traditional and modern arts, handicrafts, dance and music. It has earned many nicknames, from "The Last Paradise", "Bali Island of the Gods", to “Island of Thousand Temples.” Travelers have come and gone, from backpackers to high end tourists, seeking refuge from stressful lives, temporarily communing with the locals and their deeply spiritual and unique culture. Everywhere you can see offerings in households, gates, windows and sidewalk floors. Temples are built in between residences, with statues of deities guarding each gate. Ceremonies and parades on the streets amidst traffic are normal occurrences.
Visiting Ubud Village is quite an experience; sharing a rush of energy from each tourist you literally rub elbows with down tight streets. Going inside the mystical Puri Saren Royal Palace is embracing calmness and serenity within a busy intersection. The Pura Taman Saraswati is a beautiful water temple off the main road behind Café Lotus. Then there’s Ubud Art Market’s frenzy of people haggling with vendors over colorful Balinese woodcrafts, while your senses are still reeling from paintings and art decors you crave to bring home. This narrow shopping area was featured in Julia Roberts’ movie, in case you want to create your DIY Eat-Pray-Love tour. Meanwhile, bargaining is a must.
Tegallalang Rice Terraces in Ubud is famous for its traditional Balinese irrigation system and the beautiful terraced landscapes sloping across the green valley, perfect for Instagram-worthy selfies. The Tanah Lot Temple is one of Bali’s significant landmarks famous for its ocean backdrop and sunset display as well as neighboring temples, which you should not miss as much as the long line of souvenir shops.
Each dining experience was deliciously memorable, with food served in unique gourmet selections from breakfast down to dinner in Desa Visesa Ubud Resort, Mason Elephant Park & Lodge, Koko Bambu and Mason Gourmet Chocolate Factory, Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa and the final evening at The Anvaya Beach Resort Bali, complete with Balinese dance performance.
Despite a whirlwind schedule, we headed back to Indonesia’s third-busiest international airport, NguraRai International Airport in Denpasar, with smiles on our faces and heavy bags filled with goodies from representatives of our hosts: Michelle Lim and Rose Razon of Cebu Pacific Air, Jannelyn Balmonte of JG Summit Holdings Inc.; sir Charles Lim and Apollo Santos of Selrahco PR, and our impressive tour guides Ahjie Wahjono and Vernon Prieto of Aneka Kartika Tours, which started its business in 1979 and is one of the most reliable and highly recommended tour operators in Indonesia.
Cebu Pacific currently flies four times weekly between Manila and Bali (Denpasar) every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, but by October 28 will be flying daily to and from Bali with the lowest year round base fare at P2,088.
Jojie Alcantara writes for publications and blogs, travels and shoots, and gives workshops around the country. Email writer at email@example.com or visit www.kodakerdabawenya.com